on 11 March 2001
For two fabulous recordings, this is a great price to pay, and thoroughly recommended. Sung by the Cambridge Singers who are ex-Clare College choir members (of whom Rutter was the Director of Music), and conducted by the composer, this CD is really extremely good value, considering that each individual recording costs the same amount.
Magnificat is a sublime amalgamation of powerful South American rhythms with gorgeous double creaminess, leading to a varied and interesting work that never fails to captivate the listener. The first movement is a vigorous and spritely concoction that sharply contrasts with the frailness of the second. The fourth and sixth are a wonderful display of Rutter's ability to write heart-moving melodies that are really quite stirring. Truly a magnificent piece and the recording does the music full justice.
The Requiem focuses, in the manner of Brahms and Fauré, on not so much the drama of death and the judgement, but the peacefulness and tranquility of the afterlife. The second movement's interesting cello solo is quite different from the mood of the first, it being tense and powerful. The third movement is a charming soprano solo that captures well the overall theme of eternal rest.
This CD is an excellent addition to your collection - approach it in an open-minded way because I can guarantee it's not what you're expecting. If you've heard Rutter's christmas stuff, cast those ideas away - this is truly different from his 3-minute Christmas camp-ups.
This recording of the Cambridge Singers has them recording pieces composed by their own director, John Rutter. The Magnificat is Rutter's version of a standard piece of liturgical music, an intersection of old and new. This was recorded at one of the Cambridge Singers' favourite venues, the Great Hall of University College School, London; the Requiem was recorded in 1986, and the Magnificat in 1991.
'The Magnificat' is one of my favourite pieces of the liturgy, and one I enjoy hearing set to different kinds of music. This is a very lively and spirit-filled rendering, with magnificent vocals expressing the joy that is found in the prayer of Mary - 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour'. The repetition of the word 'magnificat' over and over in the early part of the music reinforces this idea of joy and praise. Rutter writes, 'I was conscious of following Bach's example in adding to the liturgical text - with the lovely old English poem "Of a Rose" and the prayer "Sancta Maria", both of which strengthen the Marian connection, and with the interpolated "Sanctus" (to the Gregorian chant of the Missa cum jubilo) in the third movement.' This is an extended Magnificat, done in seven movements.
Rutter's Requiem was written in 1985. In Catholic liturgy, a requiem is a Mass for the Dead, and as such involves strong tones both of mourning and loss as well as elements of hope and eternal life as reflected in Christian belief. Rutter states that, like Brahms and Faure, there are elements that depart from the traditional lines of a Catholic requiem. Rutter takes some of the texts from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Both the first and second movements, Requiem aeternam and 'Out of the Deep', set very dark, low, sombre tones. The use of strings at the beginning of 'Out of the Deep' is very effective, together with funeral-dirge like vocals. This contrasts greatly with the Pie Jesu, light and spiritual. The Sanctus is almost playful in aspect, and the Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna draw the listener higher and higher into the fullness of expectation of God's presence.
The notes include an introduction to the CD by Rutter describing some of the influences and expressions in his composition. Lyrics are included, and where the original is in Latin, an English translation is provided. There is a listing of the performers of the Cambridge Singers, but no description of the group, nor biographical information about John Rutter.
Rutter was born in London and educated at Clare College, Cambridge. This was where his career as a composer, arranger and conductor began. His early work was with groups at King's College Chapel at Cambridge as well as the Bath Choir and Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked for the BBC providing music for educational series such as 'The Archaeology of the Bible Lands', until in 1979 he began forming the Cambridge Singers, and has continued a remarkable career of performance and recording as their director ever since.
--The Cambridge Singers--
The Cambridge Singers are a mixed choir of voices, many of whom were members of choir of Rutter's college, Clare College, Cambridge. While they specialise in English and Latin liturgical pieces, they have a wide range of recordings that span from modern compositions (including a remarkable requiem by Rutter) to English folk songs of the Middle Ages. Many are former members of the choir of Clare College and other Cambridge collegiate choirs (hence the name, Cambridge Singers). In the quarter-century since the founding, the Cambridge Singers have produced an impressive body of recordings.
This is impressive indeed - were this a vinyl recording, my copy of both the Requiem and the Magnificat most likely would be worn away by now.
A number of the CDs I've bought over the past few years have been on behalf of my wife, usually when she's been singing a new and unfamiliar work with her choral society. This is certainly true of this Rutter disc, which features his Requiem and Magnificat.
Much as I've his arrangements, I've never been a special fan of the composer, finding pieces such as a "Gaelic Blessing" and "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" almost unbearably cloying.
To my ears there are one or two trite moments here, but there is no denying that much of the music here is as beautiful as it is effective. My wife, who loves both these works, tells me that they are enjoyable and rewarding to sing, but far from straightforward.
Both pieces are given here in their orchestral versions and there is some excellent playing from the City of London Sinfonia under the baton of the composer. The Cambridge Singers at the time of these recordings (1986 and 1991) featured some illustrious names (including Mark Padmore and Gerald Finley) and they produce some lovely sounds here.
Make no mistake; these are serious works by a serious composer and notwithstanding my earlier preconceptions about Rutter, I have to join my wife in praising this CD.